Geneva Car Barn & Powerhouse

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Application Type

CTA International

Level of Award

Highly Commended




San Francisco

Information about this scheme

The adaptive reuse of the Geneva Car Barn & Powerhouse transforms a dilapidated historic building into a cultural hub. The design highlights the interplay of new and old that enlivens the reading of each. The result is a revitalized building that serves the community once more while honouring its past. The building is comprised of two distinct parts—a two-story brick office building called ‘the Car Barn’ and the one-story brick and concrete Powerhouse, an industrial space that generated electricity for the trains. The overarching goal of this project was to expose and celebrate the layers of history evident in the Powerhouse while adapting it for modern use as a community and event centre for the Excelsior District. As a resource in the neighbourhood, as much of the original structure and surfaces as possible has been retained. It allows the public to see the age of the building, to feel the history through the physical textures and visual layers evident in the walls of the building. The original materials and historic architectural details were preserved and incorporated into the final design whenever possible. All surfaces in the building have been restored, brick surfaces cleaned with a wire brush and sealed to preserve the layers of history evident on the surfaces; while plaster surfaces were repaired sparingly using a subtly different colour that distinguishes old from new. In adapting the Powerhouse as an arts event space, elements were introduced in a manner that respects the existing structure. New steel and glass entry portals are held away, allowing the original wood door frame to read while extending outward to display new signage. Plywood rooms were inserted beneath the historic mezzanine to house functional spaces, while reinforcing the building’s industrial nature through their materiality. Structural glazed floors enclose the existing floor openings where turbine engines once generated the power for streetcars, creating vitrines where artifacts will be displayed. With this renovation, the reinvigorated landmark has been transformed into a community cultural arts centre that provides learning opportunities for underprivileged youth in arts-related fields. Programming is run by a local non-profit dedicated to advancing equity in arts education with a focus on underserved communities. The Powerhouse also features a range of community-focused programming for the Excelsior community, a historically underserved San Francisco neighbourhood.

Judges’ Comments: 

“A well thought through renovation and restoration community project which has some exciting moments of conserved history. The interventions are appropriate and elegantly designed.”



Aidlin Darling Design


Aidlin Darling Design


San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department

Main Contractor

Roebuck Construction

Landscape Architect

Conger Moss Guillard

Civil Engineers

BKF Engineers

Structural Engineer

Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE)

Mechanical Services

Guttmann & Blaevoet

Lighting Design

JS Nolan + Associates

Acoustic Consultant

Charles M. Salter Associates


Matthew Millman

Conservation Architect


Sustainability Consultant

Thorton Tomasetti

Theatre Consultant

Auerbach Pollock Friedlander

Primary Use Class

Class D2 - Assembly and Leisure